Hong Kong, China

Map of Hong Kong

While in China, we visited Hong Kong

Hong Kong was leased to the British for 99 years in 1898 as part of the Opium Wars of 1841. At that time, Hong Kong was said to be nothing more to Britain then a barren rock. The name Hong Kong came from Cantonese (Heung Gong) which means fragrant harbor due to the incense factories that dotted the island. Located just south of the Tropic of Cancer, Hong Kong is at approximately the same latitude as the Bahamas, Hawaii, and Mexico.

Over the past 160 years, Hong Kong has exploded in size and economic importance. One of the major reasons for this growth is due to Hong Kong's strategic location as a gateway to China. It has one of the best deep-water ports in the world and so became a key trading post. On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong reverted to China and is governed under a Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of China. This promised a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong both politically and legislatively.

The total land area of Hong Kong is about 440 square miles divided up between Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories, and the outlying islands. Only 14 percent of the land mass is suitable for building due to the steeply mountainous terrain. This is pretty evident as you first arrive into the central area of Hong Kong. There are tons of tall apartment buildings and office buildings stretching to the skies. However, once you get out of the "city area" the natural landscape is beautiful! There are 23 country parks which cover nearly 40 percent of the surface area.

The official languages of Hong Kong are Cantonese and English. Most people outside of the tourist (city) area did not speak English fluently, but good enough to help us out if we needed it! We usually did a pretty good job finding our way around. The public transportation was one of the best I've seen in all my travels. The MTR (mass transit railway) was clean and efficient. Each railcar had a little map of the stops and would light up the direction of travel and the next stop. The buses were also clean, came quite frequently, and very cheap! When I wasn't quite sure of the bus stop, all you had to do was ask and the bus drivers were very helpful.

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